healthcare data security

The Importance of Security and Medical Grade Hardware

On May 14th, Simon Pope, a director at the Microsoft Security Response Center, wrote a blog post urging users of older Windows operating systems to install security patches on their computers and take steps to secure themselves from a known vulnerability that could be exploited and result in worm infections and/or cyber attacks. The remote code execution vulnerability was discovered in the Remote Desktop Services on versions older than Windows 8. This warning arises from the lessons of the 2017 “WannaCry” ransomware attack. Those attacks were highly destructive even though a Windows security patch for it had been available for months. WannaCry affected thousands of computers worldwide, bringing down hospital networks and causing the cancellation of over 19,000 medical appointments.

It seems incredible that a hospital’s IT staff would overlook such crucial updates, but it’s an unfortunate reality for many medical companies. Another problem is that many facilities don’t upgrade their hardware often enough to be able to run newer versions of Windows, and much of their computer inventory is not of a medical grade. Cost and budget constraints tend to be the reason for lack of security or hardware updates, but as seen with the WannaCry attack, the results can be more catastrophic to a hospital and its ability to service patients.

medical grade computers

Tangent offers thirteen different types of medical grade computers that can be customized to suit the needs of any medical facility. A multi-year analysis of cost and return on investment will reveal that having up-to-date technology and safety measures will end up saving more for the hospital. With Tangent’s medical grade fanless touchscreen computers, one can be confident that infection and contaminants will not be spread amongst patients from the hospital’s computer equipment. The enclosures are protected from water ingress so that they may be disinfected thoroughly. Many are equipped with hot-swappable batteries or UPS internal batteries for continuous use of the system even during power outages. The medical computers are also equipped with the latest version of Windows to help keep the operating systems and data as safe as possible. The list of available options is truly impressive and allows hospitals to find the right fit for their requirements and budget, while also ensuring that they are doing everything they can to prevent cyber attacks and downtime.

cardiac arrest medical monitoring

Every Minute Counts with Cardiac Arrest

When cardiac incidents occur in a hospital, every minute that passes can be a factor in whether the patient survives or not. According to Heart.org, in 2016, only about 25 percent of U.S. patients survived when their hearts stopped in a hospital. With how busy medical staff are and the amount of alerts going off all the time, it often happens that a crucial one goes unnoticed for some time. For many hospital systems, the answer to this is to employ Central Monitoring Units (CMU). A CMU consists of nurses and clinicians at a remote site that watch patient vital signs on a computer and call hospital staff if they notice potential emergency situations like the onset of ventricular tachycardia. The end goal is give front-line hospital staff notice of serious cardiac events an hour or more before they happen. This is a challenging objective since the process is heavily reliant on medical technicians to identify key signals from massive data streams on hundreds of patients. However, even the short amount of notice they are able to give has been life saving in many cases already.

Fast data analysis and response from a remote clinician is possible only with fast medical computers to aid their efforts. A medical grade computer like Tangent’s E24B offers the performance, safety, and uptime required for a crucial job of this nature. Its 24” monitor with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 allows for many monitors and applications to be displayed clearly to the medical technician, and the projected capacitive touchscreen makes working between application screens quick and efficient. The medical computer has an impressive 32GB of available memory, solid state drives, and is powered by the latest in Intel Core technology. One can be assured that many applications will  run at once without freezing or crashing. Continuous operation is paramount for staff monitoring patient cardiac activity, and so the E24B computer is designed with 3x hot-swappable batteries in case of power outages or if the station needs to be moved.

Medical Computer CMU

Advances in artificial intelligence will be the next step in improving monitoring and identifying patients in danger, but the human component will likely always be necessary in that process. A trained technician is important for providing the expertise and experience to make a judgement call. AI may certainly attain a human level of aptitude for patient monitoring, but for now medical computers best shine as a reliable support and data gathering tool. With enough ingenuity and creative use of technology, hospitals will be able to push that 25% cardiac arrest survival rate up much higher.  

EHR and patient care ready

EHR and Patient Care Ready

Epic Systems is world-renowned for their electronic health records software, but their portfolio has expanded to do much more than just maintain records in the patient care space. They understandably have specific system requirements for successful use of all their powerful features. The recommended screen resolution on a system running Epic is 1920×1080 with at 24” widescreen flat panel screen. That is a bit of a jump from the 22” monitors people normally use. Epic has so much to display on the screen that smaller monitors will require scrolling to see the entire work window. They also recommend a sixth generation Intel processor and 8GB of memory. A strong processor and ample memory is necessary to run the application at full bore without any freezing or slowness. A computer running this software will often be in a clinical setting and needs to be of a high quality and safety standard. All these requirements added up together points to a need for a medical grade PC to adequately handle the job. Let’s explore why that is.

Epic Logo

Medical grade computers like Tangent’s Medix T24B are purpose built for medical environments running memory intensive applications that must have reliable and near-constant uptime. From the performance side, the T24B guarantees fast and consistent functionality with up to 32GB of memory and an Intel Core i7 processor. From a hardware perspective, three hot-swappable batteries allows for up to 10.5 hours of uninterrupted run time in case of a power outage. This medical grade computer matches Epic’s requirements perfectly with a 24” wide multi-touch screen and 1920×1080 resolution. Being a medical grade all-in-one panel PC makes it space efficient, sleek, and professional looking. Patient data is efficiently entered as they work with their care provider and they can see that quality equipment is used at the facility.

 

Medix T24B Medical Computer

A medical grade PC also needs to promote health and safety in a medical facility. After all, computers are touched all day long by many hands, and the last thing anyone needs is for germs and bacteria to propagate and spread there. Like the T24B, Tangent’s C24 medical grade panel PC has an antimicrobial additive baked into its housing to reduce the growth and spread of contagion. The enclosure is sealed with an IP65 rating so that it may be properly wiped down and sanitized. A third, and often forgotten, safety precaution is confirmed by the device’s medical 60601 certification. This indicates that the computer is protected from electrical frequency leakage, making it safe to be used in close proximity to a patient. Running an EHR software suite with a stellar reputation on a powerful medical grade computer with built-in uptime assurance is a sure-fire path to a successful practice and satisfied, safe patients.

coMING OF AGE

Coming of Age of a Medical Computer

Coming of Age of a Medical Computer

 

In the 1990s, the term “medical computer” didn’t mean much more than a PC in a doctor’s office, or computers set up specifically for order entry, medical database access, or patient surveys. The equipment itself wasn’t anything special or purpose built for the medical field. Nowadays, a medical grade computer is expected to provide clinical resources, constant uptime, and also protect patients and staff from the spread of infection. Mobile clinical carts use medical panel PCs for in-room patient care, staff use tablets to put in patient meal orders or pharmacy orders, and even the LCD monitors are of a certified medical grade.

 

Modern CDC guidelines require that medical computers be UL/IEC60601-1 certified after in-depth testing for safe use near patients, other medical equipment, and performance compliance. Antimicrobial coatings on medical computers have the capability to kill or inhibit the growth of microbes on their surface or surrounding environment. The antimicrobial agents are formulated for low toxicity, minimal environmental problems, and prolonged lifetime of the computer components the agent is applied to. Tangent’s medical computers are not only 60601 certified and antimicrobial, they are also IP rated to prevent ingress of water or contaminants. The Medix C24 medical computer has an IP65 front panel. It’s also loaded with I/O ports and mounting options so that it can be used for carts, arms, desktops, or anywhere it’s needed.

 

In addition to being suited to safety and sanitation needs, medical grade computers have to stay at the forefront of technological advances in order to serve ever-changing clinical requirements and advances. As soon as touchscreen technology became widely available, they started being integrated into medical devices and hospital workflows. Tangent’s M24T medical computer offers PCAP multi-touch, up to 32GB of memory, Intel Core processors, advanced graphics capabilities, and a built-in webcam. Why is a webcam important?  Telemedicine or “virtual visit” doctor appointments have become a popular alternative to in-person visits. Patients can conduct live video chats with a doctor 24-7 via web meetings. The M24T medical computer also has a UPS battery backup. If a doctor is meeting with a patient and the power goes out, the meeting can still proceed uninterrupted. Tangent’s computers are also validated to work well with popular EMR software packages like Cerner or Epic.

 

Medical computers have come a long way over the decades; they are safer, sturdier, more secure, and reliable than ever. Tangent’s industrial and medical PCs have far too many features to mention in one article, but they are all built to provide the most utility, versatility and value to its users.

 

Fanless Computer

No Dust Bunnies This Easter…

No Dust Bunnies This Easter…

 

Finding dust build up inside a fan-cooled computer is like finding traffic in LA. It’s always there no matter how much you try to avoid it. Thousands of hours of fan-driven air movement and electrostatic charges make the internals of a PC or laptop a prime dust magnet. From a functional perspective, collected dust, dirt, hair and debris sucked into the computer can cause overheating by insulating vital components and blocking vents. When intake vents get clogged up, the exhaust fans will pull air through every other hole in the case, eventually clogging them with dust and fuzz particles as well.

 

What does all this dust being circulated around mean for the world outside the computer? Anyone with allergies knows that it means an absolutely miserable day. In a work or hospital setting, the amount of lint and filth floating around from computer fans can be potentially harmful, especially to those experiencing compromised health situations. So how does one ensure better air quality and clean PC internals when considering computer systems for an office? An industrial or medical grade fanless computer from Tangent will absolutely hit that mark.

 

Most every computer that Tangent produces operates completely fanless and without any moving parts. Fanless cooling is achieved through conduction, or passive cooling, techniques along with processing components that give off less heat.  Modern CPUs can run with less power than before and at a cooler rate. Solid state hard drives have no moving parts and therefore are immensely cooler than standard disc hard drives. The LED backlit LCDs on the fanless computers also have low power consumption and heat output, and the cast aluminum or stainless steel chassis casings absorb any internal heat and dissipates it like a heat sink. Fanless computers save on power, reduce all computer noise, and do not circulate dust and contaminants.

Fanless Industrial Computer
Fanless F15 Industrial Computer

Tangent’s professional fanless computer lines, the medical grade T, C, and E series, or the industrial grade KW and S series are the culmination of decades of advances in technology to reduce power consumption, increase speed, maximize durability and reliability, and provide a safe, clean working environment for its users. So much effort has gone into packing Tangent’s fanless computers with tons of features and options while still ensuring that they won’t overheat or fail. Many consumer grade PCs and laptops are moving towards a fanless model, but unless high quality components and construction are employed, as with industrial grade computers, there’s no guarantee for performance or longevity.

 

medical grade computer

3 Essential Features of Medical Computers

3 Essential Features of Medical Computers

 

“Medical grade computer” isn’t a label you can slap on anything off the shelf. Understandably, there are stringent regulations around what can be considered a safe computer component for use around patients in healthcare environments or in highly sanitary conditions. Medical computers are designed to be installed in a variety of areas in a hospital or care center like medical stations and carts, wall mounted arms, or even patient lobbies, and they often have features like barcode scanners, internal batteries, or card readers to further provide desirable clinical utility. The following are three major requirements to be considered a medical computer.

EN60601-certified

UL/IEC60601-1 Certification

This certification is granted when a medical electrical device undergoes and successfully passes testing for safety and performance compliance with CDC guidelines for environmental infection control, electric shock prevention, and isolation precautions. It is a guarantee of reliability and assurance that the medical computer won’t cause harm to clinical staff or patients. Tangent’s line of medical computers have all been thoroughly tested and certified.

 

IP Rating, International Protection Marking

The IP rating of a mechanical casing and/or electrical enclosure classifies and rates the degree of protection it provides against intrusion by any number of external forces. The ratings list specific foreign objects and water pressure forces that the enclosure of the device is effective against. Most of Tangent’s medical computers are sealed and protected with an IP65 rating. This indicates that the medical computer is dust tight and ingress of any foreign particle will not occur. The IP65 rating also means that the device can safely be sprayed down with water jets from a nozzle. Thus, the medical computer can be sanitized with cleansers and water and will not harbor any contaminants or dust, which is crucial for clinical settings.

antimicrobial

Antimicrobial Protection

Tangent’s medical grade computers are manufactured with antimicrobial agents embedded in the enclosure. The antimicrobial agent in the medical computer’s plastic is necessary to address patient and medical staff safety by preventing surface contamination and the spread of harmful pathogens, germs, or mold spores. Infection control initiatives are some of the top priorities in hospitals, making antimicrobial treatment incredibly important for computer equipment that is touched by many people and could transmit bacteria or other organisms to health compromised patients.

 

serial ports blog

Serial Ports, A Dated Yet Necessary Feature

Serial Ports, An Included Legacy Component

With as much new technology that Tangent packs into their all-in-one medical computers, one does not expect to see any sort of legacy components included. However, if you look at the I/O ports on the back of the Tangent M24T medical computer, something surprising is present: three RS-232 DB9 ports. For those of us that are not polished up on our knowledge of every serial port that ever existed, the RS-232 is a standard computer serial port for communication that dates back about five decades, and was used for a wide array of purposes like connections to modems, printers, mice, data storage, circuit protection, connectors, optoelectronics, passive components, uninterrupted power supplies, and more. This is all fine and dandy, but the questions still stand. What are serial ports from the 60s doing on new computers? What does this have to do with medical standards? Why don’t they just solely use USB?

Well, simply put, medical devices have varying ways of providing data to computers. Most still have uncomplicated serial ports, while newer ones have HDMI, ethernet or USB ports, depending on the protocol being used for communication.  A true medical computer needs to be able to fit the requirements of each medical device it’s connected to, as well as the clinical workflows of the medical facility and that particular care center’s IT environment. And the old RS-232 interface is an attractive alternative to the more temperamental digital interfaces for many medical device manufacturers because it’s robust, consistent, and easy to use. The adage of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” applies heavily for the serial port standards in a great number of devices. Tangent’s dedication to providing convenience and value to medical care providers led to the inclusion of the trusted legacy ports. The M24T medical computer is able to connect to a kidney monitoring device, an ultrasound device, and a patient monitor using the serial ports, and still have 6 USB ports and an HDMI port free for other uses.

All the newer, fancy bells and whistles are bundled up into this incredible medical computer as well. It features a 24 inch PCAP touchscreen monitor, an Intel 6th generation Core i Series, fast memory up to 32GB, and high-performance NVMe storage. The M24T medical computer also has fanless cooling by way of heat pipes, it’s own internal speakers, and optional webcam and RFID. The medical computer has an uninterrupted power supply battery for up to 30 minutes of operation during a power loss event, and of course, is factory treated with an antimicrobial coating to ward off the spread of infection from bacteria or mold.

It’s easy to dismiss older technology as useless and disposable, but in the medical world, efficiency and consistency in the face of emergency situations often wins out over the new and questionable. Yes, strides are being made to upgrade older hospital systems to modern standards, but change in these sorts of environments can be slow. With so many devices still relying on legacy ports, it makes sense that medical computers still cater to their needs.

Antimicrobial Screens

The Antimicrobial Screen Advantage

Any surface can be a breeding ground for bacteria and germs, and that is a particularly troubling fact when it comes to health compromised patients in hospitals. The CDC’s website states that about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection.  Devices that are touched by both patients and doctors, like medical equipment and computers, can pose a significant risk of spreading contagions. Unlike a doorknob or a handrail, consumer computers and devices are sensitive to harsh cleaning and being exposed to liquids and abrasive cleaners.

 

Your standard LCD monitor is not protected against liquid ingress and will malfunction upon contact with it.  Luckily, antimicrobial surface treatment technology has become quite advanced and companies like Tangent are producing medical grade LCD monitors that are not only treated with antimicrobial coatings, they are also protected against water damage so that they may be appropriately cleaned in line with hospital regulations.

 

Antimicrobial surfaces mainly work to suppress the growth of bacteria and harmful microorganisms, and stop the spread of microbes. In addition to deterring bacteria, germs and molds, the coating also minimizes stains and degradation of plastic on the surfaces they are applied to. Antimicrobial agents come in a variety of types like chlorhexidine, ammonium compounds, and silver.  

Medical-Monitor

Tangent’s flagship 22 inch medical LCD monitor has a cast aluminum chassis, is factory treated with an antimicrobial additive to battle surface contamination, and is rated an an IP65 protection level against dust, cleaning liquids and water. Because of big initiatives to improve in sanitation, prevention, care quality, and overall awareness, data from CDC’s hospital healthcare-associated infection prevalence surveys show significant reductions in overall healthcare-associated infection prevalence and central line prevalence between 2011 and 2015. And speaking of the CDC, Tangent’s medical LCD monitor is EN60601-1 certified to be compliant with CDC guidelines for environmental infection control and isolation precautions.

 

This 22″ LED backlit medical LCD monitor features a 16:9 aspect ratio widescreen display, a PCAP 2-point touchscreen, and on screen display buttons for power, brightness, and auto tune. A variety of mounting options like point of care carts, movable arms, or desktop stands are possible with the VESA 75 mounting bracket. The Tangent medical LCD monitor also comes with integrated speakers, a feature not often seen on a monitor. With the success of antimicrobial agents on medical devices to help prevent the spread of pathogens in clinical settings, the technology is now being sought for use in a wider setting like businesses and homes. Wherever the demand may be, Tangent’s medical grade LCD monitor is up to the task.

Medical tablets for sabitafions

Medical Tablets for Sanitation

Medical Tablets: Handheld and Sanitary Computer Solutions    

 

People tend to forget that public computers and touchscreens are prime breeding grounds for bacteria and infection. Just this week, a study done by a British newspaper, Metro, announced that they found gut and fecal bacteria on the touchscreen computers in all eight of the McDonald’s chain restaurants that they checked. The main bacteria found was coliform but the dangerous listeria bacteria was also found on some of the screens. The restaurant chain responded that the touchscreens are regularly cleaned, but how much stewardship and regulation goes into a restaurant’s computers cleanliness? There didn’t appear to be much foresight into how easily communicable germs and bacteria are.

It’s no small surprise that infection control is one of the top priorities within medical facilities. Any reputable hospital system has written and publicly published policies and procedures related to infection control for everything including computer equipment. An industrial panel PC from Tangent is the optimal choice for tackling the threat of infection. For example, the KW series panel PC is rated with an IP65 level of protection which precludes any sort of dust or contaminant ingress into the panel PC, and can also withstand direct water jets and cleaning solutions. The panel PC can be sprayed and wiped down an innumerable amount of times and never get damaged from it.

The industrial grade metal enclosure offers a rugged, corrosive resistant surface that is also treated with an antimicrobial coating to further protect patients and staff from the spread of infection. The inside of the panel PC also plays a large part in promoting cleanliness and durability. The computer operates entirely without fans or moving parts. Failures within a computer are often attributed to components that wear out. The Tangent panel PC requires less maintenance, has more uptime, and doesn’t blow any dust particles around.

Another feature that’s making panel PCs the new norm in medical facilities is their compact size and all-inclusiveness. Having no separate PC box or cabling drastically cuts down on the space needed. Keyboards and mice are notoriously hard to keep clean, so the option to cut them out of the equation is very possible and attractive with a Tangent panel PC. They are offered with 4-wire resistive touch or PCAP multi-touch screen to provide a range of functionality based on the client’s needs. Optional Intel Wireless AC-7260 and Bluetooth functionality also adds to the cord-cutting versatility of Tangent’s panel PC line.

Tangent took the extra step of ensuring that their medical tablets and industrial panel PCs are validated to be fully compliant with both Epic and Cerner applications, two of the biggest providers of health information technology solutions and services in the world. A lot of effort was put into creating a line of purpose built industrial panel PCs that would give medical practices powerful computing capabilities, ease-of-use, reliability, and to help avoid infection scares like with the fast food touchscreen fiasco. It’s a big enough scandal for a big name restaurant, but it would be catastrophic for a small health facility.

 

3D4CE3AA-C461-435D-B321-38FB1A362B25

One-Stop Patient Billing and Scheduling

One-Stop Patient Billing and Scheduling

 

A big part of a medical office’s interaction with patients involves scheduling and billing for their services. It’s not the most glamourous position to have and largely goes unnoticed, but it’s an extremely important role since medical schedulers and billers are the ones that ensure patients and insurance companies are charged accurately, are scheduled for important services, and that patients are reminded about their upcoming appointments. They keep medical practices in business and patients on time. For smaller practices, this role tends to fall on a small number of people running the front office doing intake for arriving patients, taking phone calls, receiving direction from doctors and nurse staff, and running around to provide medical records to staff as well. It can be a hectic set of expectations to fulfill, so organization and efficiency is key for a practice to run smoothly and on schedule. On the top of the list for maintaining an organized, successful business is having the right tools that not only meet it’s required functionality, but are also reliable, fast, and easy to use.

A medical tablet is a great way to integrate all of a medical front office’s needs into one convenient, flexible and cost efficient package. The Tangent M7 7” touchscreen is an excellent entry level medical tablet that allows staff to schedule and check in patients, scan barcodes on files or wrist bands, readily accept card payments and retrieve information from the internet all while being completely mobile. The tablet device can connect to wifi and bluetooth so that staff can actively work anywhere in the facility, especially with the handy strap on the back. An optional docking station is also available for stationary use and charging.

For a larger and more robust industrial grade tablet, the R10 10” tablet makes all-in-one computing seem effortless. With many of the same features as the M7, the R10 kicks it all up a notch with an Intel 3rd Gen Core i7 processor, a 480GB SSD hard drive, and 8GB of memory. The noticeably sturdy and rugged casing has been tested and proven to safeguard the medical tablet from falls, vibration and shaking. The optional combo data input accessory offers smart card, MSR (magnetic stripe reader), and fingerprint readers for easy access to the system and easy check out for patients. A fast check in and check out is so essential for keeping a patient flow in and out of the office steady and happy. My dentist’s office is staffed by some wonderful people but their payment machine is embarrassingly slow, they have paper files for each patient still, and a few computer systems that don’t appear to be linked to each other. I can’t imagine what a pain it must be to track all of that, and to do it largely manually. With the variety of medical tablets offered by Tangent, a patient-centric practice can be transformed into a streamlined workflow dream. They offer tablets from seven to thirteen inches to suit any desktop space, and have a wide variety of options amongst them to meet the unique business requirements of demanding medical operations, including billing and scheduling.